A teacher sued the Cleveland Board of Education for being required to take maternity leave, which she claimed violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

At the time, compulsory maternity leave rules were very restrictive, and the Cleveland Board of Education required pregnant teachers to take leave 5 months before childbirth.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jo Carol Nesset-Sale (previously LaFleur), agreeing that mandatory maternity leave was unconstitutional. They claimed that overly restrictive maternity leave regulations could “constitute a heavy burden on the exercise of…protected freedoms” and personal choice relating to marriage and family life. This case preceded current family leave laws, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

While any pregnant woman

is full capable of

deciding when she returns to work

or when to leave

the state

unnecessarily penalizes her

for asserting her right to

bear children.

“Thus, we conclude that the Cleveland return rule, insofar as it embodies the three-month age provision, is wholly arbitrary and irrational, and hence violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The age limitation serves no legitimate state interest...”